On the 29th of October, gardening expert and radio presenter Sabrina Hahn visited Narrikup – a small farming community in the Great Southern region of WA. It was an ‘Afternoon Tea with Sabrina Hahn’ at Stonemeal Farm. Despite the rain and windy conditions, over 140 people came down for the day.
Stonemeal Farm is a family-run business that produces quality lamb, merino wool and hay. Stephen and Kerry Frost have been farming the property since the 1980’s. Today Stonemeal Farm can comfortably manage a dry sheep equivalent (DSE) of 19 per/ha, managing twice the regional average of 9per/ha. What makes Stonemeal Farm special is their alternative approach to agriculture – a commitment to long term sustainability and protecting the environment, yet without sacrificing productivity or profitability.
It was these features that enticed Sabrina to visit Stonemeal Farm in the first place, and subsequently developed into this afternoon tea event.
The Stonemeal Farm homestead is surrounded by a large and diverse garden – with everything from Australian natives, vegetable gardens, European deciduous trees, roses and an orchard. While it is not only beautiful to look at, every aspect of this garden serves a practical purpose – that also can carry through to the paddock. An example would be the vegetable garden and fruit orchard providing fresh, seasonal food year-round. The native trees and ornamental plants create a micro-climate around the homestead – cooling the area in the summer months and providing shelter from the winter breeze. These plants also encourage birds and other life to settle in garden, helping control pests and insects. A favourite tree of Stonemeal Farm is the European Oak. Hundreds of these versatile trees are planted in throughout the property. The oak tree provides shelter & acorns in large quantities for stock fodder, act as a natural fire retardant and the shedding of their leaves adds to the organic matter in the soil.
Stephen and Kerry Frost attribute their productivity success to a number of things. Firstly, they attempt to create an ecosystem of sorts, both in the garden and the paddocks. This can be seen by encouraging native rushes to grow in dam catchment areas – this acts as a natural water filter for salt and pollutants that stock drink from, and is a great shelter for lambing ewes. Another contributing factor is using special fertilisers to re-mineralise the soil. This improves the nutrient value of the pasture and fodder. The benefits in stock health and production are so significant they no longer have any requirement for mineral supplements or many veterinary additives. Finally, Stephen and Kerry carefully monitor any chemical use on their property – always considering the environment, the soil health and their own human health.
The afternoon tea consisted of talks by Stephen Frost about the farm, Justin Bellanger from local non-for-profit the South Coast Environment Fund, Bruce Pearse from Australian Mineral Fertilisers discussing re-mineralisation and beneficial soil microbes, and of course Sabrina Hahn covering the vitality and health of Stonemeal Farm.
The talks were followed by an afternoon tea that included fresh produce grown on the property. Visitors were free to explore the garden, and was followed by an open Q & A that extended out in the paddock – for those that could brave the cold weather. In all it was great afternoon, and with a bit of luck it will be held again next year. If you would like to know more about the farm, visit their webpage stonemealfarm.net. Special thanks to Sabrina Hahn and event sponsor Australian Mineral Fertilisers.